Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Nov. 4, 2010Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 4th day of November 2010, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Beeville, Texas
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Retirement Certificates and Service Awards
November 4, 2010
|Wildlife||Mike Reagan||Program Spec V||Wimberley||37 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Kyle Spiller||Natural Res Spec V||Corpus Christi||31 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Domingo Sanchez||F&W Tech III||Rockport||26 Years|
|Wildlife||Dorinda Scott||Program Spec III||Austin||24 Years|
|State Parks||Vanessa Swearingen||Admin Asst III||Bastrop||23 Years|
|Wildlife||Charles Hartje||F&W Tech III||Port Arthur||23 Years|
|Info Technology||Charles Wright||Network Spec V||Austin||21 Years|
|Wildlife||David Sierra||Natural Res Spec V||Tyler||35 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Jerry Mambretti||Natural Res Spec V||Port Arthur||30 Years|
|Executive Office||Corky Kuhlmann||Program Spec. V||Austin||30 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Robert Martinez Jr.||F&W Tech II||Port Arthur||25 Years|
|State Parks||Chris Beckcom||Planner IV||Austin||25 Years|
|State Parks||Rudy Dominguez Jr.||Manager I||Laredo||25 Years|
|State Parks||James Harden||Project Manager I||Lubbock||25 Years|
|State Parks||John Thomas||Program Supv II||Daingerfield||25 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||William Balboa||Natural Res Spec V||Dickinson||20 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Cynthia Contreras||Program Spec V||Austin||20 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Moises Hinojosa Jr.||F&W Tech II||Rockport||20 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||Juan Lozano||F&W Tech II||Brownsville||20 Years|
|Coastal Fisheries||David Westbrook||F&W Tech II||Dickinson||20 Years|
|Communications||Mark Thurman||Info Spec IV||Austin||20 Years|
|Information Techn||Ross Ferguson||Systems Analyst II||Austin||20 Years|
|Inland Fisheries||Annette Sudyka||Staff Srvces Offcr I||Mountain Home||20 Years|
|State Parks||Merida Cuellar||Budget Analyst IV||Austin||20 Years|
|State Parks||Mike Gomez||Park Ranger V||Moody||20 Years|
|Donor||Description||Detail and Purpose of Donation||Amount*|
|1||Partners of Palo Duro Canyon, Inc.||Other Goods||Materials purchased to provide shelter for Texas State Longhorn animals at Palo Duro State Park||$1,779.88|
|2||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Cash||For the Elm Lake wildlife viewing platform||$65,700.00|
|3||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Capital Item||One (1) 2010 Toyota Tundra to retrieve lunkers for the ShareLunker Program||$32,000.00|
|4||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Capital Item||One (1) Vermeer BC600XL Brush Chipper for use at Brazos Bend State Park||$7,000.00|
|5||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Other Goods||One (1) 1988 Kawasaki Mule for use at Brazos Bend State Park||$2,500.00|
|6||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Other Goods||One (1) Kubota RTV 900 4x4 K1||$4,000.00|
|7||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Capital Item||One (1) John Deere 4110 tractor with front end loader||$9,000.00|
|8||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Other Goods||One (1) John Deere Gator TS '06'||$1,500.00|
|9||Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization||Other Goods||One (1) John Deere Gator TS '07'||$2,000.00|
|10||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Jason McKenzie Memorial||$592.00|
|11||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Support of Balmorhea Cienega restoration||$7,490.35|
|12||The United Methodist Church McAllen District||Capital Item||One (1) 2001 Chevrolet Silverado Pickup for maintenance purposes at Camp Thicket||$2,150.00|
|13||The Devil's Sinkhole Society, Inc.||Capital Property||One (1) new 14'x24' cedar storage building with 6' ramp. One (1) new 2010 Polaris 500HO utility vehicle for use at the park||$17,000.00|
|14||Dallas Athletes||Other Goods||Nine (9) special duty uniforms and one (1) new refrigerator for the maintenance building to support the Lake Ray Roberts LE and maintenance programs||$1,700.00|
|15||Global Impact (Halliburton Employees)||Cash||For TPWD general use||$2,062.54|
|16||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||To pay annual dues to the Southern Environmental enforcement Network||$5,000.00|
|17||Durst Sheet Metal & Roofing, Inc.||Other Goods||Sixty (60) square feet of metal roofing to build a roof for Enchanted Rock State Park||$500.00|
|18||Merit Energy Company||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-to-Reefs||$151,200.00|
|19||Merit Energy Company||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-to-Reefs||$179,600.00|
|20||Merit Energy Company||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-to-Reefs||$203,100.00|
|21||Merit Energy Company||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-to-Reefs||$122,600.00|
|22||The Battleship Texas Foundation||Cash||Dry Berth of the Battleship Texas||$1,000,000.00|
|23||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Neighborhood Fishing Events||$180,000.00|
|24||Mary Gayle Braman||Capital Property||One (1) 22-foot Panther airboat and one (1) tandem trailer for airboat||$12,000.00|
|25||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||To support the Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative||$90,000.00|
|26||Coastal Conservation Association-Texas Chapter||Cash||Artificial Reef Program Rigs-to-Reefs||$31,173.00|
|27||Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (Green Ribbon in School Acct)||Cash||To purchase banners, fliers and other pertinent promotional items for the Green Ribbon Schools campaign for 2010-2011||$6,000.00|
|*Estimated value used for goods & services|
|Name/Organization, Address||Item Number||Matter of Interest|
|1||John Thomas, Quail Coalition, 19 Glen Rock Drive, Austin, TX 78738||2 — Action — Proposed Stamp and Print Artwork Program for Migratory Game Bird, Upland Game Bird, Nongame, Saltwater Fish and Freshwater Fish Stamps||Neutral|
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good morning, everybody. We’ve got a big crowd in here this morning. I think we’ve got some service awards. That’s wonderful. This meeting is called to order November 4th, 2010, at ‑‑ well, we’re pretty close ‑‑ 9:06, 9:07. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make. Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman. Public notice of this meeting, containing all items on the proposed agenda, has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, and I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.
I want to join the Chairman in just welcoming everybody today, as he said. We’re going to start the meeting off pretty quickly with a variety of service awards to colleagues who either are retiring or have been with this agency for two decades or more.
So it’s a special part of the Commission meeting and delighted to see so many families that are with us. I would ask for all of you who are here and are going to stay with us through the entirety of the meeting, if you would, if you’ve got a Blackberry or cell phone, if you don’t mind silencing that, turning it off or putting it on vibrate. Also, if you’ve got a conversation you need to have, if you wouldn’t mind stepping outside in the hallway We have a couple of action items on the agenda this morning and so if you plan to speak to those items, I’d ask that you sign up outside. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward. You’ll have three minutes to address the Commission. I’d ask you just to state your name and who you represent and then share with the Commission respectfully and courteously and also pretty quickly. You’ll have three minutes to share your perspective on whatever matter you’re here to speak on.
So I want to welcome everybody and thanks for joining us this Thursday morning. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Next is the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting held August 26th, which have already been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Friedkin, second, Commissioner Hixon. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any opposed ‑‑ not hearing any opposed, motion carries. Next is the acknowledgment of the donations list, which has also been distributed. Again, I want to thank ‑‑ I mean, literally, almost daily but certainly every month we get donations from individuals, from corporations, from partners. In so many different ways we get so much help at this department. I always want to thank everybody for those donations.
Anyway, I need an acknowledgment on that list, which has been distributed. Do I have a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So move, Commissioner Bivins. Seconded by Martin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Okay. Now, we’ll do the service awards and special recognitions.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, for the record, my name is Carter Smith and, obviously, this is an opportunity to which we get to recognize colleagues for their exemplary and extraordinary and long-standing service to the agency. We’re going to start off with a couple of colleagues who are retiring after many, many years to the Parks and Wildlife Department.
I’m going to start off asking a question. Where is Mike Reagan? Mike, you go up to Beeville?
MR. REAGAN: Yes, sir.
MR. SMITH: Okay. So we wanted to confirm that. Not that Commissioner Hughes’ memory is faulty, going back to childhood, but Dan Allen Hughes grew up just down the street from Mike Reagan as boys. I won’t say who was the older of the two. I’ll let them figure that out but they obviously go way back.
Also, he’s been a great partner with Chairman Holt in preparing management plans on their family’s ranch in the Hill Country. Mike, an A&M graduate, served very honorably in the Army, was in Vietnam, Chairman and represented our country there. He started out as a wildlife technician in East Texas and then moved over as a wildlife biologist, working in the Hill Country just west of Austin and really for the ‑‑ really the latter part of his career, he’s been our technical guidance biologist, really specializing in outreach and extension to private landowners on a range of wildlife management issues.
Mike Kruger, his boss said that Mike Reagan is always known for being head down and butt up. So he takes his job very, very seriously. Has done an extraordinary job, 37 years of service. He’s retiring from Parks and Wildlife. Mike Reagan. Mike.
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague who is retiring is another one of our long-standing biologists ‑‑ this is one of Fisheries’ biologists, Kyle Spiller ‑‑ been with us for 31 years, started out as a technician on the upper coast with our Galveston Bay management team and then ultimately moved his way down south, where he was our Fisheries Harvest Biologist Team lake leader up in Baffin Bay, in the Upper Laguna Madre. In his last part of a career with the agency, he’s been the Upper Laguna Madre ecosystem team leader, looking over that spectacular hyper saline bay.
Kyle’s been a real leader in helping the agency address with everything from seagrass and red tide and brown tide and the appropriate management of our spotted seatrout and red fish stocks, really done an extraordinary job of one of the most special places on the coast and so, 31 years, he’s retiring today, Kyle Spiller. Kyle.
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague who is going to be retired from the agency, is also from Coastal Fisheries ‑‑ Domingo Sanchez. Out of Rockport, one of our Fish and Wildlife technicians, been with us for 26 years. A native of Rockport, grew up as a boat man, did two tours of duty in Vietnam serving this country.
He also spent a dozen years as the ferry captain for TxDOT. Many of you have taken that ferry over to Port Aransas and know what a great experience that is for folks. Back in ’84, he was hired as a Master Pilot to help lead and run our research vessel, the Western Gulf, charged with operating that, rigging that, making sure we had all the appropriate gear there to do all of the fisheries management work that our biologists do, become the lead technician for our Corpus Christi Bay ecosystem team. He’s been with us for 26 years an invaluable, invaluable colleague. So, Domingo, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague who retired is one of our wildlife biologists, Dorinda Scott, and Dorinda’s had a 24-year career with the agency. Really ‑‑ most of that time ‑‑ being in charge of something called a Natural Diversity database and this is basically the state’s repository of information about biological diversity and so all of the information that we have that we collect from the scientific perspective on rare and unique and imperiled species. Dorinda and her team have overseen that effort. It’s invaluable for companies and industry and landowners who want to make sure that they have access to records that by law, we’re allowed to release about where certain unique and rare species are so that they can plan around it.
Dorinda’s been a great leader at this agency for biodiversity conservation and after 24 years of service, Dorinda Scott. Dorinda?
MR. SMITH: I’m going to move over here to State Parks and talk about a colleague, Vanessa Swearingen, who started at Bastrop State Park 23 years ago. She was hired by the agency as a custodian to help us make sure that we put the best possible face on our facilities, keeping them clean and fresh for all of our park users, worked her way up to a Fee Clerk and then eventually promoted to Office Manager, where she loved interacting with all of her colleagues and all of the guests and customers that came to Bastrop State Park from ‑‑ really from all over the world. It’s a special place in the pines just east of here and one of the reasons for that is Vanessa Swearingen. Twenty-three years of service to this great state. Vanessa.
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague who is retiring from the agency is Bill Hartje, from up in Port Arthur, part of our upper coast wildlife ecosystem team there, working on the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area and the Candy Abshier and the lower Neches. He’s been with us for 23 years. Started his career there as a fish and wildlife technician on those spectacular marshes of the upper coast that are so important to the vitality of our fish and wildlife in that area. Very experienced and accomplished technician, able to operate any kind of equipment out of that marsh ‑‑ air boats ‑‑ you name it ‑‑ Bill’s our local expert.
He’s dealt with a bunch of things over his career: hurricanes, lost hunters in the marsh, alligators, snow goose die-off, you name it, Bill has been very, very steady and we’ve been very, very proud to have him on our team at the Wildlife Division. Been with us for 23 years. Bill.
MR. SMITH: Back in the ’80s, when we first built a network to serve all of the information needs of this agency, it was serving all of about, I think 18 people inside this agency. That’s grown a bit since then and a big reason for that is Charles Wright, who’s with our Information Technology team. He’s been with us for 21 years. Really been instrumental in helping us develop the technology to support this very specialized, diffuse agency with colleagues all across this state working in a variety of different offices and making sure that they’ve got secure and reliable, fast and cheap access to the network resources, been a great architect for that.
Also been a strong partner, helping to support the information and technology needs of all of the divisions in the agency, something that our IT Division really prides themself under, under George’s leadership, and so we’re very, very proud today to recognize Charles for his service to the state of Texas.
So, Charles, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: We’re going to now move to service awards and celebrate the tenure and accomplishment of a bunch of colleagues here. We’ll start off with David Sierra, one of our wildlife biologists, been with us for 35 years. Started out as a technician with the agency, actually working here in the non-game program on peregrine falcons and alligators and coastal birds, became a wildlife technician working up in the Panhandle in West Texas, then was promoted as a wildlife biologist, moved over to Sulphur Springs, working with landowners and partners and a bunch of counties in northeast Texas and is now our district leader, overseeing our wildlife operations in 30 counties in east and northeast Texas, very much known for his conservation ethic, his expertise on prairie restoration and wildlife management. He’s a great conservationist. Thirty-five years of service, David Sierra. David.
MR. SMITH: I think all of you know just how important the Sabine Lake is on the upper coast, the water body that we share with Louisiana. Some spectacular oyster reefs and fisheries resources up there and thank goodness we’ve had Jerry Mambretti to lead our fisheries management and conservation efforts up there. He’s been with us for 30 years there in Port Arthur ‑‑ started out with Coastal Fisheries in 1980 as a technician, working at the marine lab in Rockport, ultimately transferred over to Flower Bluff, where he was working on bay-shrimping monitoring program, was promoted to be a biologist and in charge of all of our resource sampling efforts there up at Sabine Lake and then became our Sabine Lake ecosystem team leader.
One thing Jerry has really been noted for is his work on the management of Gulf Menhaden. He is the recognized expert of that resource. When this Commission was confronted with some challenges about how to set a total allowable catch in the Gulf to make sure we appropriately regulated that fisheries stock, Jerry Mambretti was the go-to guy between industry and the department, to be able to get something done that everybody could work with ‑‑ just been an extraordinary representative of this agency. I also want you to know he was one of a number of colleagues who really stepped up during Hurricane Ike and when that office on the upper coast was damaged, Jerry really led our effort to make sure it was put back together after the hurricane. Really proud to have Jerry Mambretti, 30 years of service. Jerry.
MR. SMITH: I don’t know how many stubborn, hard-headed Hill Country Germans we have on staff but, particular ones with a great sense of humor and certainly Corky Kuhlmann is no stranger to this Commission. Corky’s been with us for 30 years.
He started out as a surveyor, became the chief surveyor for this agency and then was promoted to work in our Land Conservation Team as one of the deal guys. It’s been said about Corky that there’s probably nobody in this agency who’s walked more fence lines, seen more back 40’s and drank more coffee with landowners than Corky Kuhlmann and so today we’re celebrating 30 years of his service to the state of Texas. Corky.
MR. SMITH: Yesterday, before the Commission meeting, Corky, I was working down here and focused and Corky could tell I was a little preoccupied. He said, Why don’t we just skip this whole deal and go hunting? Hell of a good idea, Corky.
Our next colleague that we’re going to celebrate 25 years of service is Robert Martinez. He started out in the Coastal Fisheries Division as a seasonal worker down in Brownsville, ultimately promoted to full-time Fish and Wildlife technician there and moved up to Port Arthur, working at a Port Arthur marine lab and assumed responsibility of our — and then became Master Pilot of our research vessel, the Sabine Lake and played a great role in operating that vessel, supporting all the work of our biologists and technicians in that very important ecosystem and really proud that he’s been with this agency for 25 years. Robert Martinez. Robert.
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Chris Beckcom, has also been with us for 25 years, been with our state parks team. He’s a park planner and so he’s one of those very professional, skilled colleagues that helps us design parks, design infrastructure, manage public use and basically how we’re going to ultimate care and steward and use parks.
And Chris has had a long and distinguished career inside this agency, helping us develop places from Government Canyon to the Texas River Center to World Birding Center, Palo Duro Canyon, Mustang Island State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Also, LCRA asked to borrow him to help with the development of their Canyon of the Eagles Park and McKinney Roughs Nature Park. When the agency received an award from now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for one of their state excellence awards, Chris Beckcom was an integral part of that and he’s been with us for 25 years. So, Chris, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: Now I want to recognize one of our colleagues from down Laredo way, Commissioner, Rudy Dominguez and ‑‑ been with this agency for 25 years, started out as a maintenance worker there at Lake Corpus Christi State Park, ultimately hired and promoted to be a ranger, then went over to the San Jacinto Battleground to help get some more diverse experiences working with our State Parks Division but then, back in ’91 he transferred over to Lake Casa Blanca International Park and promoted from ranger to assistant superintendent ‑‑ February, 2008, officially promoted as our new Park Superintendent there at Lake Casa Blanca. He’s been with us for 25 years. We’re really proud to have him on the team. Rudy Dominguez. Rudy.
MR. SMITH: We’ve got another colleague from the other end of the state, up in Lubbock ‑‑ been with us for 25 years, James Harden. Started working for the agency, part-time I presume, in high school, there at Abilene State Park, out in the field there at that park. When he got out of school, became a park ranger up at Palo Duro Canyon State Park and worked his way up through those ranks, ultimately moved over to ‑‑ between Wichita Falls and Electra to work over there at Lake Arrowhead State Park, where he got his State Park Peace Officer commission.
He ultimately served as our Regional Law Enforcement Coordinator for two of our regions, 1 and 6. He’s now our regional maintenance specialist. He also maintains his commission as a state park peace officer for the region, been a great mentor to many of our park peace officers and so today, we’re going to celebrate 25 years of service to the state, James Harden. James.
MR. SMITH: How we like hearing about these second and third generation Parks and Wildlife employees and John Thomas, who is our superintendent over at Daingerfield State Park is a son of a retired game warden, Johnny Thomas. John started out his career as a park ranger at Caddo Lake State Park and then became the regional state park’s interpretive specialist, working on both wildlife management areas and state parks in the area.
Back in ’98, he was promoted to park superintendent of the Starr Family State Historic Site and then back in 2005 he became our superintendent there at Daingerfield, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. The state parks and communication teams have been working to get the message out about all the investments that the legislature has made to help with repairs and investments in state park facilities. Daingerfield has been front and center. We’re investing $4 million in repairs there, fixing up the old Bass lodge and some restrooms that desperately need it, really going to make that place shine and a big part of that is John Thomas. I saw him last week in northeast Texas. He’s a great ambassador for this department. He’s been with us for 25 years.
John, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: The next colleague that we’re going to recognize is another one of our long-standing fisheries biologist, Bill Balboa, that I had the privilege of working with when he was down in Palacios. He’s been with this agency for 20 years, started out there at the Palacios field station as a technician.
He’s worked at three different offices along the coast, done work from the Lower Laguna Madre all the way up to Galveston Bay, recognized for community outreach as one of our employee awards back in 2007, been very involved in communities in which Bill lived. When he was in Palacios, he was a city councilman and also an associate municipal court judge. He’s now our Galveston Bay ecosystem team leader, been doing great work on the upper coast with our fisheries and oyster stocks and real proud to have Bill on the team. Twenty years of service. Bill Bilboa, Bill.
MR. SMITH: We’re going to recognize another one of our colleagues in Coastal Fisheries, Cindy Contreras. Been with us for 20 years. She actually started out her career in Inland Fisheries, working up near Lake Livingston, very involved in the management of that lake and associated water bodies, ultimately began to work on our "Kills and Spills" team, which, as you know, is our very specialized team of biologists that deal with the aftermath of spills and fish kills and wildlife kills, after environmental issues, did a great job with that, moved over to San Marcos, continuing to work on that, covering about 72 counties and always on call there.
About 10 years ago, she moved over into the Water Quality arena and is part of that team, helping us address state water quality standards and how those should most effectively be promulgated to make sure that the state’s fish and wildlife and environmental interests were well-protected.
She’s got a lot of technical expertise, a great biologist and we’re very proud to recognize Cindy, 20 years of service. Cindy.
MR. SMITH: Another colleague from Coastal Fisheries ‑‑ Moises Hinojosa’s been with us for 20 years, one of our technicians out of the Rockport office. Started right there in Rockport, joined the Aransas ecosystem team work group back in ’93, very involved with all of the nationally acclaimed research and monitoring efforts that our Coastal Fisheries involved, in terms of understanding the dynamics of our fish stocks there at that area, in the middle coast ‑‑ been involved over his career with dolphin and turtle strandings and conducting outreach programs, assessing commercial fisheries data. He’s been our duty safety officer for the work group and a big part of Expo.
During all the years that that existed, he and his wife would come up and volunteer over the weekend there and deal with fish prints and touch tanks and trying to get the word out to kids about just the importance of this mission. We’re very proud of his 20 years of service.
Moises Hinojosa, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: We’re going to recognize another colleague in Coastal Fisheries, Juan Lozano, who’s been with the agency down in Brownsville, as one of our Fish and Wildlife technicians, been with us for 20 years. I see that over the course of the time, he’s seen a lot of changes inside the agency, not the least of which is that he has worked for five different ecosystem team leaders and Al ‑‑ I think just going to reinforce the important message that we give all of our employees who have supervisors inside the agency that sometimes you’ve just got to outlive the bastards.
MR. SMITH: So Juan’s done a great job with the agency. I’m not sure how I’m going to recover from that. Why don’t I quit there? Juan’s been a great colleague for 20 years. Juan, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: Okay. Back to Coastal Fisheries. David Westbrook. David over in Dickinson, been with us for 20 years. Started out as a Fish and Wildlife technician there at the Perry R. Bass Marine Research Center there in Palacios, assisting with research on marine organisms, collecting sampling, doing a lot of vehicle and facility maintenance, all the things that our technicians are asked to do, very involved in remodeling our brood building, as part of the hatchery there.
Back in 2007, moved up to work on the oyster restoration group there at the Dickinson Marine Lab and one of the things that he’s had a major role in, that I think the Commission ought to know a little more about, is really operating and taking care of our boat up there at Dickinson that has the side scan sonar equipment and this allows that group to collect immediate bathymetry data on the coast, monitor oyster populations, what’s going on inside the Bay, gives us very real time biological data to help monitor trend changes over time and David has played a major role in that effort. We’re really proud to have him with us for 20 years, David Westbrook. David.
MR. SMITH: Our next colleague that we’re going to recognize is an indispensable part of these meetings. You know him. He tries to keep a low profile. He’s the only one in here that’s usually as big as Boruff ‑‑ Mark Thurman, part of our communications team, graduated Texas Tech ‑‑ I like that already.
He spent 15 years in private industry before coming to work in his dream job for Texas Parks and Wildlife and working for our award-winning Texas Parks and Wildlife TV show, been one of our videographers, had some extraordinary adventures chasing antelope and mountain lion and bears through the Big Bend Country.
He’s ridden with game wardens as they chase outlaws. He was there shooting video when the state record bass was unveiled, he’s explored Palo Duro Canyon with archaeologists, looking at battle sites and geology, spent a week 45 miles out on the Gulf on an oil and gas platform so that we could get live video from 100 feet below the surface, to look at fish use around those platforms, had the privilege to record the memories of 50 or so CCC veterans, when we did the 75th anniversary, just a couple of years ago. And, as part of his other duties as assigned, he’s been at every single Commission meeting for the last 20 years. God bless him. Mark Thurman.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: A Red Raider, huh — so’s my wife.
MR. SMITH: So I’ve mentioned, we’ve come a long way in technology in this agency and our IT team has really led that for us. Ross Ferguson’s been one of those thought and practice and implementation leaders, been with us for 20 years. Started out, interestingly, over in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, one of the first ones to have a personal computer assigned to him, back in the back of the 1980s. It was as big as this room.
He ultimately promoted up to park ranger and then moved into Austin to become one of the park office support staff, helping to support colleagues at over 100 state parks then around the system, ultimately came to work over in the IT division, working for Arnie and been very, very involved in the development of the TxParks system for the agency. So 20 years of service. Ross Ferguson. Ross.
MR. SMITH: We’ve got a lot of good places to work around the state but the Heart of the Hills Research Center there at Mountain Home ain’t bad, let me tell you and Annette Sudyka’s been our staff services officer there for 20 years, started out in August of 1990, right there in the Hill Country working for our research directors at that wonderful old hatchery and research station where Inland Fisheries biologists are really doing some extraordinary cutting-edge work, worked for Dick Luedke and, of course, now Bob Betsill, she’s done a host of things, is really our administrative lead there, riding herd on all those fisheries biologists and technicians, not an easy charge.
She pulls a lot of duties there and really, really proud to recognize her for 20 years of service. Annette, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: I want to now recognize one of our colleagues in state parks, our budget analyst, Merida Cuellar’s been with us for 20 years. She was with the Air Force and then came to work for Parks and Wildlife. Worked in a variety of kind of business and management-related positions from procurement to contracting to purchasing, worked in a number of divisions, got expertise in accounting and billing and financial management, budgets ‑‑ just been indispensable to this agency as we manage and steward the fiscal resources that are granted to the state. She’s been with us for 20 years. Merida Cuellar. Merida, please come forward.
MR. SMITH: I know all of you know that the ‑‑ really the first state park that’s credited to being in the system is Mother Neff, over in Moody, just west of Waco and we’re going to celebrate the work there of Mike Gomez ‑‑ been with us for 20 years there. Started out his career there as a park range. He’s now become our lead ranger, taking care of that area.
You may recall that that park, which is just an extraordinary place, that Governor Pat Neff gave to the state, in honor of his mother so that all Texans would have a chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors along the Leon River. The park has undergone a number of flooding events and so we’re working diligently to get that infrastructure replaced. Mike’s been a great steward there. Also very involved in his community there in Oglesbee. He’s a member of the volunteer fire department and the local school board. Also a retired member of the Texas Army National Guard. Twenty years of service, Mike Gomez. Mike.
MR. SMITH: It’s now our privilege to recognize one of our game wardens who you know well and a wonderful day today to see Sergeant Brad Chappell get recognized as the Midwest Officer of the Year. You know Brad from his presentations to the Commission.
Brad is also a second-generation game warden. His father is here with us and so he used to occupy that office that David Sinclair is now sitting in and so, big shoes to fill, I want you to know that. And Brad has just been an extraordinary warden for us, graduated from the 40th game warden training academy back in 1987, immediately sent him over to Sabine County where game wardens are about as popular as Michelle and Carole when, one day, they baked me a birthday cake and set it out in front of Craig Hunter’s office with all these signs around it. It said, "Posted, No Trespassing."
And so, Brad has been through a few things during the course of his career. He’s now a Sergeant Investigator for our Special Operations team. Brad has really been our leader in Lacey Act-related considerations in working to stop the illegal movement of deer and other species of wildlife across state lines. He’s forged extraordinary partnerships with state and federal prosecutors, federal wardens, local law enforcement agents. He’s just ‑‑ when Brad does an investigation, it’s meticulous, it’s thorough and a prosecutor can take that to the bank. He represents this agency with great, great distinction and professionalism. A fine, fine officer and could not be more proud today to recognize Sergeant Brad Chappell.
Brad, please come forward.
MR. CHAPPELL: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, I’d like to take just a moment to express my appreciation for the support that you and all the executive staff, the captains and the majors provide to all the game wardens and all the employees of Parks and Wildlife Department. You make our job a whole lot more simple and a lot easier to do and I just wanted to express our appreciation, across the state, for what you do for us and the way you stand up for us. Thank you.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, that concludes my presentation. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Smith.
And, Brad, congratulations ‑‑ recognized by your peers. That’s fantastic. Okay. This time, for any of those ‑‑ everybody’s clearing out. Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. The first order of business is Item Number 1, which is an action item and what we need to do is approve a revised agenda. Item Number 4, a briefing on Safety Issues at TPW and the Accident Review Board, which was on an earlier version of the agenda was scheduled for presentation today, was rescheduled for the Ad Hoc Infrastructure Committee yesterday and then, the entire Committee was cancelled. Okay. All right, and will be held at the meeting in January 26th. All I’ll say about that, just quickly, is that we’re putting the focus on safety and making some changes and doing some things internally, both short term and long term and so we’ll have that presentation in January.
Item Number 6 was going to be an action item ‑‑ the Val Verde County Land Project — Devils River State National ‑‑ Natural Area Property Exchange, which has been withdrawn from the agenda at this time. That, of course, had already been announced and then Item Number 9, an Action ‑‑ it was a Land Acquisition, Henderson County, 14 Acres at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. That’s been withdrawn from the agenda at this time. It’s still kind of ongoing.
Do I have a motion for approval to change the agenda?
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: So move.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Hughes, second Commissioner Martin. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.
Item Number 2, an Action Item, Proposed Stamp and Print Artwork Program. Miss Frances Stiles. Frances.
MS. STILES: Good morning.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good morning.
MS. STILES: My name is Frances Stiles. I’m with the Administrative Resources Division. Each year, in accordance with the Print Program Contract with Collectors Covey, Martin Wood brings the original artwork for review. The original artwork was available for review yesterday in the Finance Committee meeting. Today we have that in electronic format and is an action item for your consideration.
The artwork for your consideration is the migratory game bird artwork, which is the white-fronted geese by Robert Hautman. The non-game artwork, which is the skimmer, by Al Barnes.
The Upland game bird artwork, which is the bobwhite quail by Joe Hautman. The saltwater artwork, which is the red fish by Randy McGovern and the freshwater fish, which is the channel cat by John Dearman.
Those are the artwork and I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or comments of Frances? No, it looks good. [indiscernible]
MS. STILES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: This is an action item. We don’t have ‑‑ wait a minute. I do have one individual that does want to speak. John Thomas. John.
MR. THOMAS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. My name is John Thomas. I’m here to represent the Texas Quail Coalition and what is obvious to everybody is how beautiful these prints and stamps are that the department is selling but they’re not just beautiful in the physical sense, they’re also beautiful for the partnership and the trust between the private and public entities that they represent.
They represent the citizens coming to the state saying, Please help us with the problem. Please help us manage and preserve these resources. They represent the state’s promise and this department’s promise to do that and to use that money for those purposes and it’s really a beautiful symbol of trust of government and the citizens working together on an interest of common ground.
The trust part of it, though, also involves the department and the state being good stewards of our money. And that, frankly, is a trust that we believe is being betrayed, particularly with respect to the Upland game bird stamp and print money and the Migratory game bird stamp and print money.
I don’t know if you know it but there’s $14 million of unspent funds that hunters like I pay for that has been promised to be spent on management and habitat but isn’t being spent on management and habitat. The person who buys one of these prints thinks that’s what that money’s going to be used for. They don’t realize that that money, or some of it, is going to sit in an account and just isn’t being spent or even worse, is being used as an account balance to offset spending on other items.
That’s just not right. It’s deceptive. And I’m here today to ask you all to please help ‑‑ Carter and Clayton and the people at the department ‑‑ get something done about this. It’s an issue that needs some political input. Frankly, that’s what you all are best suited to do and have the ability to get the attention of some people on the Committees to get that done.
We hope that you all will talk to your staff and that the department will accept part of the responsibility for this money not being spent. It’s not just the legislative appropriation item, as we’re often told. Even if the legislature didn’t appropriate any of that money, the department could still choose to spend all of it.
Now, we’re realists and don’t realize that it’s not possible to do that but we’re asking you to step up, take some responsibility and start spending some of this money that we’ve trusted the department to use correctly. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Mr. Thomas and I’ve written myself some notes because I’ll have to visit and maybe we’ll get hold of you to and understand exactly what you’re referring to specifically.
MR. THOMAS: I’ll be happy to answer any questions now or I’ll be around all day for that purpose ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
MR. THOMAS: ‑‑ and give you contact information or whatever, when there’s more time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, because I think we need to understand exactly what you’re referring to.
MR. THOMAS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: There are some issues that are about that ‑‑ there’s no doubt about it, sporting goods tax and other things so I don’t know exactly ‑‑ anyway.
MR. THOMAS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay?
MR. THOMAS: I’ll get you my contact ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I appreciate your taking the time.
MR. THOMAS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if I could ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Sure, great.
MR. SMITH: John has been a strong, strong partner and been a great advocate of this department and, obviously talking about the criticality of hunters and anglers who invested in the conservation work of this agency and we have built up these fund balances in Upland game bird and Migratory game bird stamps over the years. There is an appropriation issue there that we have to deal with during each session.
Our hunters have told us loudly and clearly that they want those funds invested for their original purposes. We’ve been working very closely with our Upland and Migratory Game Bird Committees on this issue. In fact, Clayton and Matt Wagner worked with those committees and Ross to get a spending plan endorsed by those committees about how we would use those funds recently and so, we’re certainly well aware of this issue and certainly be happy to work with everybody on moving forward. So ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful.
MR. THOMAS: I don’t think it’s just an appropriation issue and that’s the point that we all need to get clear on. I think ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And that’s ‑‑
MR. THOMAS: ‑‑ the department has the ability to spend their money without further appropriation.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right. And I appreciate you saying that part of it cause that’s the part I think I’ll need to try to understand.
MR. THOMAS: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Great, John, thank you. Any other questions or comments from the Commission? Okay. I need a motion. This is an action item.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Friedkin, second Commissioner Falcon. Falcon, excuse me. All in favor.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Frances, thank you.
MS. STILES: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: They’re beautiful. Item Number 3, a Briefing from our Texas Parks and Wildlife Dive Team. This should be interesting.
Major Robert Carlson and Trey Shewmake, please make your presentation.
MR. CARLSON: Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission. My name is Robert Carlson. I’m a major out of Region 3, which is located out of Rusk. The basic idea of having the dive team has come up many times during my 29 year career as a game warden. This time the idea came up while Region 3, District 1 wardens were working a double fatality ‑‑ a boating accident back in February of 2009.
To make a long story short, the underwater search and recovery team concept was presented to the senior law enforcement staff at a meeting in early summer of 2009. After that meeting, the real work began with the research into what parameters and what the parameters would be for this highly specialized and trained unit. Then there was the search for the equipment that would be needed to make reaching our goals possible and, above all else, the training that would be necessary to ensure the safety of our team members.
More recently, in the late summer of 2010, the team completed their extensive training program and at this time, I’d like to introduce Trey Shewmake. Trey is a lieutenant there in Region 3 and is the divemaster for the department’s underwater search and recovery team.
MR. SHEWMAKE: Thank you Commission and Chairman Holt. I want to tell you all that I really appreciate the opportunity to present the dive team to you today. I have a couple of pieces of equipment over here in the corner that I’m going to pull out here for you to see. You can sure come put your hands on it if you need to but I just want you to see how involved it is so I’m going to do that real quick.
I also have ‑‑ I was going to pass around a mask ‑‑ I’m going to pass around this mask. It’s a really highly technical piece of equipment but it’s got a lot of officer’s safety and diver’s safety features to it. It’s got full communication in here. You can talk to each other with it and you can talk to the boat even while we’re down there in black water, very dangerous situations. But, this is one of the things that we purchased that is strictly for diver safety and it’s state of the art, top of the line stuff and we’re real proud of it but, you know, just so you can see what that’s about.
MR. SHEWMAKE: As you can see, it’s ‑‑ when we’re wearing stuff like this, it’s no pie-eating contest when you got that on and it’s very involved. Okay. I’m going to give you a quick briefing on just kind of how we got started and a little bit what’s involved with our training and why we’re even here.
To start off, in June of 2009, Colonel Flores and the senior staff ‑‑ they made a commitment to start the law enforcement division’s underwater search and recovery team and it was to ‑‑ basically to enhance the ability of the law enforcement division, you know, we serve the state of Texas and to serve the citizens. This is a picture as you see on your ‑‑ in your computer screen. A picture of the dive team. There’s nine members including myself. And the center person there in the camouflage shorts ‑‑ that is our main instructor. He was the bid winner who got the bid to provide equipment and training. His name is Phil Riggs of Texan Scuba out of Huntsville. He owns the Blue Lagoon, a private scuba park and he actually is a former employee of Texas Parks and Wildlife, which didn’t have anything to do with the bid but he legitimately got the bid but I want to mention that he went above and beyond everything that we asked of him and gave of his time and his resources way more than we could have ever asked for.
And he’s now a friend of all of us and a very valuable part of why this is a success.
But that’s our first day and you can see the nervousness in everybody’s face right there. I was a pretty experienced diver when we got started but most of these guys were not.
We have a mission and our mission is simply this, to function as an integral part of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s comprehensive statewide law enforcement program by providing direct support through departmental operations that require underwater search and/or the recovery efforts.
And, you know of course, game wardens are tasked with body recovery, unfortunately and drowning victim recovery and that’s certainly one of our main points of focus. Of course, there will be evidence recovery eventually in some cases but our primary focus is that and to service the citizens of Texas in that capacity and that will help us, you know, complete our comprehensive law enforcement program in that area of water safety.
Why did we develop the dive team, and it is very simple. Drowning victim recovery operations require a lot of man hours. They require a lot of personnel to be involved and a lot of equipment to be tied up and that pulls the game wardens away from their constituents in their own counties to come, you know, work a drowning and try to recover a drowning victim for the family members.
And so, believe it or not, it will absolutely assist in, you know, our capacity to provide the best business practices as we can, as we cut down those recovery times and the amount of effort that we spend on those efforts.
Really quick, our member selection. I want to tell you a little bit about these guys. They were picked not because they were the best divers. They were recruited. We didn’t take a bunch of volunteers and try to make divers out of them. We picked the very best we could. These guys were picked number one, for their work ethic and their job performance. It’s the same eight fellows that we selected would have been the same eight guys that I would have picked, if we would have put together a SWAT team.
You know, or we would have put together somebody to write policy. I mean, it’s the same ‑‑ the number one guys that we got. They went through a medical screening, a very in-depth medical screening for public safety divers and they had to pass that. They had to pass the game warden physical agility test but, on top of that, they had to pass a dive team physical agility test and it involves swimming underwater, carrying things, certain things that we had to do. It’s very rigorous.
And then they had to do a very introductory course in scuba diving, to see if their physiological limitations would let them be in that environment ‑‑ which they all passed with flying colors.
Prior to that, they went through a pretty in-depth and psychological interview with me and the major to find out if they were capable of handling the stresses and the fear and the dangerousness of the job and they all passed with flying colors and they’re still all in place.
On basic training level ‑‑ really quick ‑‑ this is the very first day. In this picture, this is the very first day they’ve ever seen the main equipment that they’re going to dive with and you can see everyone of them in this picture had no idea what they’re looking at. You know, they’re all, you know, looking at their equipment like they’ve never seen it before and they haven’t but they went from there to be the most capable divers you could imagine and they’ve functioned already in some of the most drastic situations and environments diving that you could.
But this is a picture of the very first day and I wanted you to see where they came from to where you going to see some pictures in just a minute.
Believe it or not, they went through 218 hours of training to get to where we’re at today. They were required to do a minimum amount of diving outside of their training but this 218 hours is legitimate. They’re training and they’re either in the water or were in class and that’s a lot of time to get to where we’re at today.
We went through a basic diving certification, which is a recreational thing. If you went scuba diving, you would go through that. Then we put them through an advanced diver certification, which is kind of the next level ‑‑ allows you to go a little deeper. It’s still recreational-type stuff.
They went through full-face masks certification program, which was very in-depth and it allows us to be certified to use the mask that you looked at.
We also put them through dry suit certification, which they’re required to dive with. It protects them from the environment, contaminants, temperature, other hazards that are out there. They went through underwater communication training because that mask that you passed around literally has communication integrated into it and you need to be trained on how all that stuff worked and how to manipulate that when you’re underwater and you can’t see a thing.
They went through entangled diver training, which is very in-depth and very stressful ‑‑ black water, 50 feet and somebody’s in trouble and we’ve got to get them out. We’re the ones who have to save each other and so, we’re our own backup and that training was critical.
We also went through black water training and you’ll see a picture of that in just a second ‑‑ and the public safety diver certification, which was an in-depth training event that occurred over about a six- or seven-day period and the Houston Police Department assisted us with that and that was very in-depth and very technical and very dangerous training but they completed it all with no hangups at all.
The state-of-the-art equipment that was purchased, you can see the full-face mask on, in the picture to the left on your screen. That’s Derek Spitzer in that face mask and you can see another diver to the right with some of the gear on. You can see how it’s very cumbersome. It’s not, you know, something that you’d want to go diving in Cozumel or Cancun with. It’s definitely work and I’ll show you some more pictures of that.
The fellow on the left without the shirt on, which is the only one we would let get photographed without a shirt on ‑‑ is Jarrod Bryant but he’s one of those, you know, benches 400 pounds so he didn’t mind it but you can see, he’s taking notes right there because we record everything we do. It’s a safety matter and we were trained that way by the guys that trained us, very proud of how they did that and how ‑‑
Okay, this is a picture of ‑‑ you know, I just wanted to show you that we were there in full capacity as game wardens and we hauled equipment in game warden trucks, everybody knew what we were doing when they saw us and they all wanted a piece of us everywhere we went.
The picture on the right is our diver, Ellis Powell, as he’s coming out of the water and you can literally take a look at ‑‑ now, you can see what he has on. He’s carrying probably about 100 and maybe 25 pounds of gear, as he comes out of the water there but, you know, he’s not smiling coming out of the water. It’s hard work. But that kind of gives you an idea just looking at him, what it’s like to carry that much equipment.
Really quick, on behalf of the rest of the dive team members, I want to thank four men especially for the Houston Police Department Marine Unit, who give our police diver training. They’re the best in the state and maybe the best in the United States, believe it or not, out of Houston, this public safety divers.
The first one on the top left, his name is Sergeant Paul Bonner and he ‑‑ all these guys were with us every single day and they put the training on us at no charge. They went beyond their normal calls of duty and their normal hours of working, to stay with us every single day.
The guy on the right is their main instructor. His name is Glenn Mayo ‑‑ the top right. On the bottom left, that’s me talking to ‑‑ I guess I got a picture of me without a shirt and now you can see why we only wanted Jarrod in there. That guy’s name is David Owens and he’s their technical guy and was able to instruct us and give us information and good advice on our equipment even before we purchased it, so he’s been hanging with us a long time too.
And then, Mark Thorsen, right there on the bottom right. He was in the water every single day and literally had to come down to get me at one time, I was entangled so bad that I’d been down about 15 minutes trying to cut my way out of some trotlines I was tangled in and he was coming down to get me about the last ‑‑ you know, I cut the last line off about when he reached me and, you know, luckily he didn’t have to save me but he was literally there for that purpose.
So those four guys ‑‑ we couldn’t have done it without those guys and thank you for letting me recognize them.
While black water training was very in-depth ‑‑ it started in the pool. In the bottom right picture, you can see how the police divers for Houston were there every step of the way, hanging on to us. The guy in the full-face mask is Rob Furlough, but you can see his face mask is blacked out. We simulated a lot of that training by blacking out the face mask with a shield. But you can see how careful the police department guys were with us.
And, they taught us training search scenarios on ropes and that kind of thing and you can see in the other picture. They put us through live scenario training also in the lakes, where we were literally looking for bodies that were in the water and downed boats that had sunk and working drowning cases, with witnesses and everything. Very complicated training that they put on for us. Very in-depth, but when we’re done with it, we’re fully prepared for — to function as a dive team.
On the right, that’s Craig Hernandez coming out of the water and you can really see the look on his face and look at all the stuff that he’s wearing, the two scissors ‑‑ those are shears for cutting himself out ‑‑ you gotta have that stuff because it’s so dangerous and that’s a really good picture that illustrates the stresses that these guys went through during their training.
The bottom line is that, without teamwork we couldn’t have done it. Colonel Flores and Lieutenant Colonel and my Major preached teamwork every day that we are in a meeting or every time I talk to them and our Executive Director, Mr. Smith, preaches it from the top down. And you know that as well but honest to God, these guys are ‑‑ the guys and myself, without the teamwork, we could have never done it so it’s very important to us.
Johnny Jones is there on the left, helping Rob Furlough get ready. Johnny’s also a diver.
So I want to at this time present the dive time to you. I’m going to call their names out, if you wouldn’t mind. They’re not here, they couldn’t all make it, but I want to call their names out at least for you and I want to tell you that it’s my pleasure, you know, as their coordinator ‑‑ and I guess, their leader, you know, because I did a lot of the legwork in the beginning but it’s really my pleasure and I’m honored more than anything I’ve ever done in my career to present these guys to you. On the left is Rob Furlough, next is Ellis Powell, Johnny Jones is the third one. Number four is Craig Hernandez. I’m in the center there ‑‑ Trey Shewmake ‑‑ and then standing to my left, which is just to the right in the picture is Derek Spitzer and then Eric Collins and second from the right is Jarrod Bryant and the last one there ‑‑ we call Big Country but his real name is Justin Eddins and just, really quick, you know, you had to spend a little extra money to outfit Justin. I just want to let you know that. He ‑‑ the suit he had on, just real quick ‑‑ the suit that he’s got on right there, the Triple Extra large ‑‑ the tallest made in that suit, didn’t fit so they created a suit for him and it was so big that they didn’t even have a size so they called the King One, so that’s the new size that he’s wearing.
But, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Underwater Search and Recovery Team and thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you very much and I’m glad we’ve put this team together and I appreciate your enthusiasm. I think that’s probably what got them through some of that hard work cause I know ‑‑ I can imagine how hard it must have been ‑‑
MR. SHEWMAKE: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: ‑‑ and it sounds like you had a cooperation from a lot of other groups, including, of course, the individual you hired but also the Houston Police Department and everybody else. So, now we’re ready. Yes. Thank you. Any other questions from the Commissioners? Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Trey, have you, by any chance, have a brother named Charles?
MR. SHEWMAKE: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. I just wanted to ask. You looked like one in Fort Worth.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Item Number 4 we ‑‑ had been pulled.
Item Number 5, a briefing, Texas Children in Nature. Nancy Herron. Nancy.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, before Nancy starts, I want to just introduce this topic because it’s an important one. It came out of the last session. There was a bipartisan bill that had passed in the Senate and was ‑‑ the governor supported and was in the House, got caught up in all the last minute activities there but it was really one that was led very strategically by two of our very close partners, Kirby Brown at the Texas Wildlife Association and Allen Cooper at the National Wildlife Federation, who put together a piece of legislation to work on the children in nature initiative and this has been a topic of great interest to Commissioner Martin, who’s really been a leader on the Commission, helping to push this.
This legislation ‑‑ which got caught up at the end, resulted in a bipartisan group of legislators that sent us a directive, asking us to put together a strategic plan that really looked at how do we get more Texas families into the out-of-doors and how do we address this growing problem of natural resources illiteracy.
And Nancy Herron, our colleague, has really been one of the leaders, not just in Texas but across the nation, working on this issue ‑‑ just been right at the forefront of it. So just wanted to acknowledge her efforts to start that off. So, Nancy.
MS. HERRON: Thank you and good morning, Commissioners and Mr. Smith. I am Nancy Herron. I’m the Outdoor Learning Programs Manager and I’m here to brief you on the Texas Children in Nature Initiative. I am very honored to represent the heart and the hard work of a cadre of professionals across the state who have worked on this and ‑‑ like Mr. Smith ‑‑ would like to especially acknowledge Kirby Brown and Allen Cooper, who are in the room. The Wildlife Federation and Texas Wildlife Association were key leaders in furthering this issue. And, also, a special thanks on behalf of the partnership to Commissioner Martin for her support and leadership.
Well, to begin, I think we ought to take a look at or think back to our own childhood and many of us think of playing outside until suppertime. We’re running around, making up games, playing with our friends or just exploring ‑‑ and that was just part of being a kid.
Sadly, however, this is not the childhood of many of today’s children. They’re inside, they’re inactive, they’re isolated and impressionable. On average, they’re spending more than 50 hours a week connected to TV, computers and other electronic media. That was measured during a school year, by the way ‑‑ over 50 hours a week.
So how does that affect childhood today? Well, one example, kids are six times more likely to play a video game than ride a bike. We’re seeing, certainly, a decline in our hunting and fishing participation with our youth. These are sobering ‑‑ there are sobering consequences to this. Children are at an increasing rate, we’re seeing obesity in our children and, as Dr. Falcon perhaps has seen in his own practice, the obesity rise.
In the most recent fitness gram, which is a statewide fitness assessment of our public school children, seniors ‑‑ at the 12th grade level, were at a little over 8 percent, who actually passed the fitness gram. A little over 8 percent of our 12th grade children are considered fit.
The best we do are third grade girls ‑‑ about 37 percent passed the test. This is not a remarkably difficult test. It measures body mass index ‑‑ body mass and general fitness and flexibility. But that’s the best we do.
In addition to a lifetime of health problems that early obesity causes, we’re seeing stress and clinical depression on the rise with youth. Prescriptions for anti-depressants for children have doubled in the last five years.
So what’s happened. What has changed? Author Richard Louv looked at these alarming trends and what’s happening in children’s lives today and coined the term, "Nature Deficit Disorder." Now, it’s not an official diagnosis and he does not claim that but it does provide a way of viewing the problem. Louv documented the current research on the benefits of a strong relationship with nature.
Children who play outside have more sustained vigor, physical activity; they show improved coordination. Outdoor play and exposure to nature have been linked to reduced risk of myopia, which is near-sightedness, asthma, even Vitamin D deficiency. I mean, we’ve actually seen an increase in rickets in our children.
Children who spend time in nature show lower levels of depression and anxiety. They’re more cooperative with others. They feel better about themselves. They have more confidence in their abilities to handle life’s challenges.
Students who participate in outdoor learning and environmental-themed work seem to have scored better on tests. Studies show that children who play and learn in nature are more creative and actually more focused in school.
The body of research here is relatively new and we’d certainly like to see more longitudinal research but as Dr. Howard Frumkin, from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has said, we know enough to act. This message has rung loud and true across communities and professions. Richard Louv was the keynote at the American Academy of Pediatrics this last month and he was greeted with ‑‑ granted two standing ovations for his message with the pediatricians.
So how is Texas responding to this? Well, first, we recognize that this is a solvable problem. A bipartisan group of legislators requested that Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Education Agency, Department of Agriculture and State Health Services form a public-private partnership to create a strategic plan that would increase children’s opportunities with nature and improve their natural resource literacy. A copy of this request ‑‑ is in your handout.
Carter Smith generously agreed to chair the partnership and Commissioner Martin served as our advisor. The steering committee created ‑‑ represents a broad background in the private sector and the public sector, from health, the nature centers, business, NGOs, as well as related state agencies, public education and universities.
The steering committee developed stakeholder teams to write the plan. They focused on four areas that would have the most impact on children’s opportunities with nature and that was in health, education, access and community. Over 80 professionals across the state joined together in this partnership to craft a concise and actionable plan and if you would like to have a copy of those members, I do have a handout with that available to you. They are truly a distinguished group of professionals who worked with integrity and with speed and they focused on very clear actions.
You have a copy of the executive summary of that plan. The full plan is being formatted as we speak and I’ll be happy to send that to you in a few weeks but, in general, their recommendations are ‑‑ one, using nature as a health strategy, not only in professional recommendations but within guidelines that are in the state, including nature as a tool for learning, expanding access and availability and improving a sense of place with children so they connect their natural areas.
Certainly, reaching diverse communities ‑‑ this is as simple, sometimes, as stepping out your door and it does not require a lot of resources and it’s not something that should be difficult for anyone to achieve.
Unifying the message, encouraging adoption across sectors and addressing liability concerns. But, most important of all, is implementation. And so, the team is looking at several strategies. First off is a presentation to legislative staff that will occur on November 18th, in just about two weeks.
One option we’re considering is a non-binding resolution that would be in support of the plan and recommending that those who can implement nature as a strategy within their organizations and agencies. There will be an implementation conference December 3rd and 4th. The focus of this conference will be on actions to implement the plan and forming regional partnerships because it clearly happens at the front line. We are very optimistic and excited about this initiative, about the conference. We would certainly encourage you and extend a warm invitation to Commissioners to attend this conference. It’s something that I think that we’re going to see some real movement on and really an unprecedented collection of folks from many sectors at the table.
So with that very brief overview, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the initiative.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a few words. This has been truly a labor of love for so many people and thousands of volunteer hours, from experts, who have lovingly and expertly and ‑‑ expedited it quickly, as Nancy said, to come up with this amazing program ‑‑ strategy plan.
I want to thank Nancy. It’s been a vision of hers that I’m sure it’s probably like giving ‑‑ having a child right here and now you see that it’s in your hands and it’s going forward and your enthusiasm and your vision and your dedication, getting everybody together and maintaining that level of enthusiasm and excitement and level of integrity throughout this entire process, has been just stellar and really appreciated.
And to Lydia Saldana, with our communications, thank you. You’ve been right by her side, along with so many other people but without, you know, your leadership, as well, you know, it wouldn’t have quite come to this fruition in such an elegant and elaborate way. So really, thank you, Lydia, and your team.
And, really, there’s just so many people to thank and a list of 87 individuals who came to the table to make this work. As we all see and understand that there’s such an enormous problem with the development of our children to be healthy, emotionally and physically and in every aspect and in everything that we do in this department and our mission, if we lose the children, then nothing we are doing today is even ‑‑ what’s it worth and what’s it about, if we lose the children in our future and we don’t give them the opportunity to take ownership of protecting our natural resources and looking after their well-being in a natural and healthy way, as well.
And so, having this strategic plan come together with such an incredibly diverse group. If you saw the names on that list, they are individuals that are from every angle, every side of the table, every walk of life, that have come together for this one cause, stayed focused; no one had an extra agenda other than this program at hand and it was certainly humbling and beautiful to see this all come together and I think that, you know, I want again to thank Nancy and Lydia and Carter for being, you know, our lead charge in so much of this. Thank you for all that you did in all of the meetings and keeping everybody enthusiastic and on mission.
Also, again, another thanks to Kirby Brown and Alan Cooper for taking this initiative and saying, We are not going to just let this, you know, die and out, what situation came about but we’re going to take it forward and so, Thank you. And, you know, I could go on forever so I’m going to go ahead and just thank everybody and I really do appreciate ‑‑ and it will be very exciting to see this truly implemented and thank you.
Thank you, Nancy, for taking and being a national figure in this arena. Thank you.
MS. HERRON: Well, thank you. And, if I may just add ‑‑ I was talking with one of our speakers for the conference, Dr. Michael Foulds, who is the head of the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and his response to our request to come to the conference and speak was, I would be honored to. His comment was, our state’s two greatest resources are its children and its natural resources and this is where we need to act.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We need to bring them together. Nancy, thank you and certainly, you know, the work has just begun, as we know and I was just looking at some of the recommendations and it says, Expand Access and Sense of Place and it was interesting, relative to what we’re looking at, for example, on this Devils River and other things and so, you know, we’re just starting but appreciate your enthusiasm.
MS. HERRON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions or comments?
Yes, sir, Commissioner Duggins.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: On your recommendations, the last bullet point is Address Liability Concerns. Would you elaborate on that and what that means or what you’re referring to.
MS. HERRON: Yes, and actually it’s good news. There is a perception that it would be very difficult to open your land, for example, to recreational activity or that certain sites would be very vulnerable to liability concerns and, actually, looking at the liability laws, they’re probably one of the more generous states, as I understand it and Alan Cooper and Boyd Kennedy on our staff know much more about that but, addressing it in the sense of allaying some of those concerns that people have, that, actually, we’re in a little bit better shape than we thought in clarifying that for more people.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I know ‑‑ I’ve had discussions with several ranchers and landowners who, I think, would be much more receptive to scout troops, whatever, coming on their property if they felt like there was less of a liability issue and I don’t ‑‑ I’m not sure where it is now with our statutes but I’m glad you’re including that as a part of your work because I think it’s critical to enticing or to encouraging landowners to open up their property to others who might not have the opportunity to go there. So ‑‑
MS. HERRON: Absolutely and it’s fear on ‑‑ liability concerns on the landowners’ part and then, on parents’ part; it’s fear, you know, what if my child trips, am I being a negligent parent? So we have two cultural things to be looking at, as well. But, thank you. Yes, we will pursue that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: And, Commissioner Duggins, just on the liability thing, there’s been changes too over the last few years, TWA’s been part of it and others like on the equine side and that kind of thing where you can do ‑‑ we are a pretty good state, compared to a lot of other states, relative to bringing people ‑‑ we, for example, do something on a private piece of property where we bring kids from MD Anderson over and, at one time, was a liability issue. We couldn’t put them on the horses, for example. And, we got that law ‑‑ not just we, but a lot of people got that law changed. My point being is that, a private landowner can do quite a bit with public groups. Now the key is we’ve got to ‑‑ we’ve got to ‑‑ how to bring it all together.
MS. HERRON: Exactly. Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, wonderful. Any other questions or comments for Nancy? Okay.
Great, Nancy, thank you very much. Keep it up.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Item Number 6 has been withdrawn. Item Number 7, an Action, Land Exchange — Blanco County — 300 Acres for the Pedernales Falls State Park Conservation Project — Resolution. Ted. Ted Hollingsworth.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth; I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This is an item pertaining to a proposed conservation project at the Pedernales Falls State Park.
Now, this is a shot of Pedernales Falls, a really spectacular stretch of the Pedernales River in Blanco County. This ‑‑ for those who don’t know ‑‑ it’s pretty close to the center of the state, about 30 miles west of where we are this morning, a very popular state park and rightly so. Some of you may not know that the General Land Office appraises every tract of property we own once every four years and, under state statute, if they identify a piece of property that they believe is not serving the purposes for which it is acquired or if they believe is not being utilized according to the reasons for which it was acquired, they have the authority to recommend the sale of that property and send a list of recommended sale properties to the Governor’s office and the Governor’s office has the authority to concur with that. And, there is a tract at Pedernales Falls. It’s separated from the main body of the park by County Road 2766.
Back in 2004, the General Land Office did just exactly that, they recommended that the property was underutilized, the Governor’s office concurred, the General Land Office put that property on the market and, as in as much as the property is occupied by golden-cheeked warblers, we sat down with asset-management office at GLO and they concurred with us that the creation of a conservation bank dedicated to the recovery of the warbler would constitute a highest and best use for that property and agreed not to sell the property on the condition that we proceeded with efforts to create that conservation bank.
In the last four or five years of working on this, we have come to the realization that a conservation bank is really better entered into and managed by someone in the private sector. This agency really does not want to get into the conservation credit brokering business and so, recently, we put out a solicitation for proposals. We got two proposals. We selected one from Pedernales Blue Hole Limited.
Pedernales Blue Hole Limited holds a 235-acre tract overlooking the falls themselves. Their proposal was that ‑‑ is that we authorize them to try and create the bank on the 320-acre tract that the agency owns and, if successful, exchange that tract for a conservation easement on the property or a viewshed easement. It’s probably going to be a hybrid easement that would prohibit subdivision of the tract but might allow the construction of a home site or two beyond the bluff that you can see at the back of this picture, where it would be out of sight from the state park.
This particular shot is taken from the observation deck overlooking the falls. The yellow lines show where that tract comes down to the river and this map shows the shape and location of the easement tract, as well as the 320-acre tract that we own.
I want you to understand if you approve this, that what you’re doing is authorizing the Executive Director to proceed along these lines. One of the reasons we need ‑‑ or one of the reasons we’re requesting this authorization is because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given us a letter agreeing in principle with this but predicated on proof that the Commission is, in fact, a willing seller of this property to Blue Hole Limited for this purpose.
It may take as much as a couple of years to actually consummate that agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At that time, we’re asking that the Commission authorize the Executor Director to proceed. As we discussed yesterday, there’s some details in the easement that would have to be worked out, some details in the conservation banking agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that obviously have yet to be worked out but what we’re asking ‑‑ what we’re asking is that you authorize the Executive Director to proceed with this project on the understanding that, when he becomes convinced that these conditions are met and that this exchange is in the best interest of the agency, that he be enabled to proceed with that.
And, again, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requiring that you authorize the Executive Director to do so before they will consider an applicant ‑‑ an application for a conservation bank from the private individual to be a valid application.
The recommendation before the Commission is that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts by Resolution in Exhibit A, the provisions of this land exchange in Blanco County. And, with that, I’d be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or comments? Ted, good presentation. And this is an action item, is that correct? Yes. Okay.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So move.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Duggins, second by Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. With that, this is approved. Thank you very much, Ted. And we are, let me see ‑‑ Action Item Number 8, Land Acquisition, Travis County: 10 Acres along McKinney Falls Parkway as an Addition to McKinney Falls State Park. Corky Kuhlmann. Corky.
MR. KUHLMANN: Good morning. For the record, Corky Kuhlmann, with the Land Conservation Program. This is a land acquisition at McKinney Falls State Park. There is a shot of the falls there. This acquisition is about a half of mile from here ‑‑ from where we’re sitting. If you look on this slide, you can see it in red. It is right at the entrance to the park. It includes part of the creek front and, literally, the back property line of this ‑‑ the property line opposite McKinney Falls Parkway is [inaudible] the line of our maintenance building. It makes a lot of sense for us to purchase this ten acres. The park’s very popular with both, you know, visitors to Austin as well as many local people. It’s a nice ‑‑ it’s a city park but it attracts a lot of tourists.
There’s a little bit better shot of how the tract lays, in relationship to our maintenance yard, has quite a bit of McKinney Falls Parkway frontage. It would be not good if this tract is developed by anyone else.
So having said that, staff recommends that you adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire a 10-acre tract as a part of McKinney Falls State Park. And with that, I’ll take any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do we have any questions or comments? Okay. Do we have a movement?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Friedkin, second by Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. No opposed, it passes. Corky, thank you very much.
It’s hard to believe but Number 9 action item has been pulled and so, Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 10:45 a.m., the Commission meeting was adjourned.)
In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this 4th day of November 2010.
Peter M. Holt, Chairman
T. Dan Friedkin, Vice-Chairman
Mark E. Bivins, Member
Ralph H. Duggins, Member
Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member
Karen J. Hixon, Member
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member
Margaret Martin, Member
S. Reed Morian, Member
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 3, 2010
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 70, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731